Category: Public Policy
Social welfare speaks to the collective well-being of society and the state of a healthy balance for people. Social welfare policy is the domain of maintaining society’s well-being and serves as the collective response to social problems. The social welfare system consists of the organized efforts and structures used to provide societal well-being.
However, the government does not have a program called “welfare.” But as a member of society, everyone is a part of the social welfare system where roles may vary depending on need, position, and at different points in life. Still, every person that exists in society participates in the social welfare, both, as a provider and a recipient.
The blatant inaction of the federal government not to intervene in a social problem or act on behalf of society typically is a sign that a decision has been made not to make it a national concern; and, to leave it up to local communities or social service agencies to deal with it.
Social welfare programs are an outgrowth or product of social welfare policy. These programs are a response to the economic and social conditions of society.
An example of this is the Social Security Act of 1935, the largest piece of welfare legislation until the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) which regulates our current welfare system.
The Great Depression was a time of such economic insecurity that something had to be done to correct the imbalance of the economy and provide some form of support for citizens. The Social Security Act was the government’s response.
A Lesson in Values and Beliefs
Americans have a general value for supporting those in need such as giving to charity or just being socially caring but vary greatly in their view of these values. Such issues as determining the responsibility for other’s well-being and whether it is a personal or public matter? Collective or individual concern? Or, whether aid should be short or long-term? All these concerns serve as conflicting values when it comes to welfare.
Values are said to be the worth, desirability or usefulness placed on something. While beliefs are can be summed up as an opinion or conviction.
The thing to remember is that values are fluid. That is, they change over time and, certainly, with changing circumstances. For example, when a person is young and strong or financially stable they may firmly believe in personal responsibility. However, with age and changing life circumstances that leads to the reliance on the help of others, they will likely become more receptive to a collective approach to living and giving.
Values and beliefs join forces when people have to decide whether they feel something is worth the investment of our resources such as time, money, or even public awareness. They also make it difficult to gather a consensus for national commitment to social problems.
So, we examine the principles of values and beliefs which underpin social welfare services to help us understand the development, maintenance, and function of the social welfare system at any given point in time. Because change always comes with time.
Areas of Division in Public Policy
Let’s discuss how some of our conflicting views as it relates to the approach and provision of social welfare, how those beliefs and value systems shape public policy, and how they affect the most needy and vulnerable in society.
The majority of disagreements over the best choices in public policy derive from some very powerful, deep-seated belief systems. To this point, there are more broad areas of contention that have endured over time regarding social problems and how they should be addressed.
A Brief Review of the Deserving versus Undeserving Poor
One of the biggest misconceptions I have heard is that only conservatives have a problem with welfare. But, with our shifting culture and greater emphasis placed on individuality in society – more and more liberals have now adopted the personal responsibility mantra.
A demonstration of this was democratic President Bill Clinton’s Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), what we know as the Welfare Reform Bill. This is where the welfare system forever changed with the introduction of work requirements for government benefits has its roots.
So, when we look at the deserving versus the undeserving poor, although not new, the idea has resurfaced in modern liberal circles, what is known as Neo-Liberalism. Rest assured, there are neo-conservatives as well.
However, in this view of deserving versus undeserving poor the idea is that poverty is acceptable within certain categories of poor people. Those categories typically include children, seniors, and disabled people that are accepted as “worthy of help.” That is, these people are in need through circumstances beyond their control.
The other end of the spectrum is considered to be in control of their circumstances and they should be working hard, pulling themselves up by the bootstraps, and willing and grateful to accept any opportunity to work. The problem with this perspective is that there is little to no consideration for cause.
The widow who lost all of their benefits due to the loss of a spouse or the unemployed worker whose company moved their job overseas are examples of legitimate cause.
The assumption is that all able-bodied, working-age adults who encounter poverty does so as a personal failure rather than social structures that create barriers to resources. So, the political dilemma in writing social welfare policy is in determining whether the focus should be on the individual or society.
Conflicts are inevitable in the social system and interventions are needed, sometimes on a broad scale depending on the extent of the conflict, to minimize their impact. Social welfare policies and programs fulfills this need.
We will not expound on all of the conflicting values that have been outlined. But I wanted to provide a brief examination of some of the issues faced in social welfare and provide an opportunity for us to consider the need and usefulness of federal aid.
The goal is to understand the underlying values and beliefs that shape the social consciousness of contemporary society and how we may use that information to navigate the current state of the social welfare system.
I want to encourage everyone to think clearly and objectively about how we feel on the issues that may not affect us today but what may be encountered in the future. But, not just to have an opinion…be informed.
It is important to understand social welfare because it gives us the power to question, advocate for change, and make better decisions for our lives. Those who know the true strengths and weaknesses of social programs are better able to plan for the future.
Was this post helpful? Leave a comment and please share with your followers. If you’re in need of case management services or need additional assistance complete the confidential Contact Form. Also, consider donating to continue this important work and expand our reach to the broader community.
State Assistance Programs Enforce Work Requirements For Government Benefits
Redefining Social Welfare…Again
Welcome to The Community Advocate Network. My name is Deborah Mitchell, I am a graduate in Social Work and Registered Social Work Technician. My human service background began in 2007 which includes medical case management and service navigation for the indigent population, outpatient mental health counseling with substance use and abuse disorders, supportive employment and job development for mental health consumers, and structured living domicile management.